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Best Parks in San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for its beaches, history, architecture and culture, all packed into less than 50 square miles between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

Whether you’re a visitor or looking to rent an apartment in San Francisco, there are plenty of green spots to enjoy — from lush parks that are perfect for a family picnic to hidden urban gardens where you can unwind during lunch break.

So, without further ado, here are some of the best parks in San Francisco:

Golden Gate Park

Often compared to New York City’s Central Park, this giant green rectangle is one of the most spectacular parks in California and the entire U.S. Golden Gate Park stretches from the western border of Haight & Ashbury all the way to Ocean Beach. Its walking paths, meadows, lakes and other natural features— along with its central location — make it the best recreation spot in San Francisco for people of all ages. Access to this park is free, but visitors will have to pay admission fees to attractions including the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. This park is truly a magical place! And, if you look close enough, chances are you’ll find one of the tiny fairy doors that are hidden throughout the park.

 

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Grandview Park

Grandview Park sits on top of Turtle Hill in the Sunset District, boasting incredible panoramic views of San Francisco. Despite being so small — it only spans about 4 acres — this elevated sandy oasis attracts crowds enjoying dreamy sunsets as well as refreshing sunrise views. This urban park is located just five blocks south of Golden Gate Park, so it’s easily accessible. And getting there is half the fun: you’ll have to climb one of the mosaic stairways that start around the base of Turtle Hills. Our favorite is the 163-step tiled stairway on Moraga Street and 16th Avenue, which was created as a collaboration between local artists and neighbors. Once you reach the top of the stairs, on 15th Avenue, turn right and take the wooden stairs of the Grandview Park trail that will take you to the top of the summit.

 

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Mission Dolores Park

“Dolo”, as the locals call it, is an urban oasis spread on 16 acres of grassy expanses on the western edge of the Mission District. It’s one of San Francisco’s best parks to hang out under the palm trees, attracting thousands of people — especially on sunny days! Amenities at Mission Dolores Park include a playground, an outdoor basketball court, six tennis courts, two soccer fields, two off-leash dog play areas, as well as picnic areas and restrooms. The park is also famous for hosting festivals, live art performances and even political rallies, and has breathtaking views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Bay. Plus, the site was once an Indigenous Yelamu village, so the park often hosts ceremonial dances, as well as Cinco de Mayo performances. One thing to keep in mind during your visit here is that Mission Dolores Park has a “leave no trace” policy, so be sure to pack out your trash and help to keep the park clean!

 

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Balboa Park

Nestled between Mission Street and Southern Freeway (Interstate 280) north of Geneva Avenue, Balboa Park was created in the early 20th century and covers 25 acres.  Its main attraction is the 3,500-seat Boxer Stadium, the city’s only public soccer stadium. Boxer Stadium is also home to the San Francisco Soccer Football League (SFSFL), which was established in the early 1900s and is the oldest American soccer league still around. What’s more, Balboa Park also features an outdoor basketball court, an athletic field, a skateboard park, tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool. With all these athletic amenities, it’s no surprise the park attracts large crowds of sports enthusiasts year-round. Still, there’s plenty of room for those who just want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city as well.

Alamo Square Park

This hilltop park is the ultimate destination for San Francisco locals and tourists alike. It spans four city blocks — bordered by Hayes Street, Steiner Street, Fulton Street and Scott Street — in the iconic Alamo Square neighborhood overlooking downtown San Francisco. The park draws in visitors mainly for the famous “Painted Ladies”, a row of Victorian houses on Steiner Street. If you haven’t been here yet, you surely have already seen those gorgeous houses and snippets of the park in many Hollywood and TV productions: Alamo Square Park was the filming location for Full House, a family sitcom, and The Five-Year Engagement, starring Emily Blunt, Jason Segel and Chris Pratt. Apart from the stunning views of the city, the park also features a tennis court, a playground, walking trails, a picnic area and an off-leash area for dogs.

 

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Huntington Park

Huntington Park is a 1.3-acre oasis in Nob Hill, close to Grace Cathedral and the Scarlet Huntington Hotel. In fact, the site of the current park was once a lavish mansion, the home of Arabella Huntington, who was the richest woman in the world in the early 1900s. This fenced park is the perfect hideaway for those who need some quiet time but don’t feel like leaving the big city. It also has a playground on the northern part, so you’ll often see families out for a relaxing picnic here as well. Huntington Park’s main attraction is the Fountain of the Turtles, which is a replica of the famous Fontana delle Tartarughe in Rome.

 

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O postare distribuită de Katherine Lohec Sondej (@kllsphoto)

Rincon Park

For those who prefer more urban green spaces, Rincon Park is within walking distance from the Oracle Stadium. You can take a long walk along the Embarcadero while admiring the stunning Bay Bridge or even rent a bike and cruise around it. If you’re a visitor, it’s easy to spot Rincon Park among the other attractions in the area: just look for a massive bow-and-arrow sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen — aptly named Cupid’s Span — that depicts the myth of Eros, the Greek god of love. For San Franciscans, it symbolizes where legendary singer Tony Bennett “left his heart” before taking a bite of the Big Apple.

 

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Salesforce Park

We saved the best for last: A hidden gem in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district that’s a floating paradise! Encompassing 5.4 acres of lush vegetation, Salesforce Park sits atop the Salesforce Transit Center, one of the city’s landmarks. This beautifully landscaped urban rooftop park is home to 600 trees and 16,000 plants, as well as 13 small botanical gardens representing flora and fauna from all around the world. To get here, you can take the elevators or escalators, or — for a more impressive experience — you can board the gondola at the corner of Freemont and Mission Streets, free of charge. Once you’re up in the park, take a walk along the Bus Fountain, one of the longest water artworks in the world, while admiring the “forest” of skyscrapers surrounding the Transit Center. Other attractions here include a theater, restaurants, cafés, a children’s playground and a winding walking path called the Salesforce Loop.

 

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Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu is a senior creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With more than ten years of experience in the real estate industry, she covers a variety of topics in the residential and commercial real estate, including trends and industry news. Previously, she was involved in producing content for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and Yardi Matrix. Veronica’s academic background includes a B.A. in Applied Modern Languages and an M.A. in Advertising and PR.

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